Achieving Beautiful Posture
But being quite tall, I’ve always struggled with my posture. Actually, when I was about 16 I’d grown so quickly I couldn’t even stand against a wall and hold my head up straight! At the time, chiropractic treatments made a big difference in improving my posture to become somewhat normal, but it has never been quite perfect. These days, having a sedentary office job does not help – (boy, it’s hard to remember to sit up straight at the computer all day!), and up until recently I’d been dealing with neck and back pain, stiffness and constant headaches. Not to mention the unattractive forward-head profile that would get highlighted in photos…
About two months ago I decided that I’d had enough, and that I wanted to fix my posture for good. The fact that my wedding is only just around the corner (yikes!) has been another big motivator for making this change – a commitment, you might say – which I know is going to take ongoing work and maintenance. With the help of an amazing musculoskeletal therapist I was fortunate to find in Brisbane, in just a couple of months I’ve made some pretty amazing progress, and so I have a bunch of tips for anyone else longing for that perfect ballerina posture!
Tip #1: Stretch to release tension in your neck and upper back
If you work at a computer or struggle with a forward head posture, chances are the muscles toward the back of your neck and upper back are working overtime. This is because your head – which is pretty heavy – is sitting forward and away from your centre of gravity (which should be right above your shoulders). Holding each of the stretches below for about 20 seconds each, a few times a day, will help to lengthen and relax these tight and overworked muscles. I find these stretches are easy to do whenever I have a couple of spare minutes – maybe in front of the TV, sitting at my desk, while I’m boiling the kettle…etc!
I.e. your pectoral (chest) muscles! I was surprised to learn that not only the tightness in my back muscles was contributing to a forward head posture and slouching shoulders – but tightness in my chest muscles was also making it hard to keep my shoulders down and back. Performing this easy stretch as many times as you remember throughout the day will help to release your shoulders from automatically springing back into a slouchy position!
Now that those pesky tight muscles are loosening up, some neck strengthening exercises can really make a difference! I’ve had great results from this simple ‘chin tuck’ exercise. Standing against a wall, focus on sliding the back of your head up along the wall as you tuck your chin in tightly and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times, for 3 sets. If you’re doing it correctly, 1) you should start to feel a burn in the muscles under your chin 2) you should be looking super non-sexy doing this! But it’s worth the effort – this exercise really works to strengthen the weakened postural muscles that pull the head back into alignment with the shoulders. Read: straight, elegant neck!
At the end of each day, I’ve also been working on relaxing my spine and ‘resetting’ it to a neutral position. All you need for this exercise, is a small cylinder (think deodorant can or something along those lines) rolled up in a towel. I lie with this running down the middle of my back (to the bottom of my neck), with arms outstretched, for a couple of minutes. This extension position is great for stretching through the chest, and for mobilising the spine. Plus, at the end of a long day, this exercise should feel amazing!
The key to getting results with these stretches and exercises is to keep it up every day. This can be the tricky part, but so far I’ve found the results to be very worthwhile. It no longer feels unnatural to hold my head up straight, and my neck and shoulders are looking more flat and graceful. I’m looking forward to seeing how much my posture can still improve from here!
Let me know if you try any of these tips, or have any other tricks for perfect posture!